It is spring and the phones are ringing at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Fort Bend County. While most of the calls at this time of the year are questions about gardening, fruits and vegetables and landscape care, many concern honey bees. Extension Director Vince Mannino says that honey bees have been in the news a lot lately due to their huge role in agriculture. “No other pollinator can compare to the honey bee and there have been problems with pests and disease as bees are moved about the country to pollinate crops. With these problems has come a big uptick in public concern and interest in honey bees and beekeeping.” In the spring though, there can be conflicts between people and these valuable insects. “Getting the right advice at the right time can make a big difference to both people and the honey bees” Mannino says.
According to Albert Smaistrla, President of the Fort Bend Beekeepers Association, “A colony of honey bees is much like a single organism. No single honey bee can survive on its own so colony reproduction in the spring involves ‘swarms’ of bees that split off to form a new colony.” A large cluster of bees hanging from a tree limb or on a wooden fence are awaiting the return of scouts that will guide them to a new residence. At this point, a beekeeper can quickly capture the swarm and introduce them into a hive as their new home. If not a beekeeper’s managed hive, hopefully the bees will move into a hollow tree or maybe an abandoned birdhouse. “If the colony moves into the wall of someone’s home,” Smaistrla says, “it’s a really bad deal for the people and the bees.”
If you find a large cluster of honey bees, it is important that you act quickly. The worst advice is to expect them to just go away. An internet search for a local beekeepers organization or a call to your County Extension office can get you in touch with a beekeeper who may be able to remove the swarm before conflicts arise. Some beekeepers even offer to put out “swarm traps” in problem areas. The bees are enticed into a new home so they can be easily removed after dark after they all go inside. Service clubs and community organizations that would like to learn more about honey bee swarms can call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service- Fort Bend County at (281) 633-7029 to schedule a volunteer speaker for their next meeting. The same number will get you in contact with a volunteer from the Fort Bend Bee Swarm Call List, set up to assist residents with bee related issues. Also visit the Fort Bend Beekeepers Association website at www.fortbendbeekeepers.org for more information.